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May 12, 2006

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kim

I know you don't believe it, Foo Bar, but someone had to go over the ramparts. It wasn't you.
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cathyf

Foo Bar, you really ought to mention that the aluminum tubes debacle was yet another milestone on the CIA's nearly perfect loosing streak. Now that the Iraqis have weighed in (or at least their documents) it turns out that the 50,000 tubes were for centrifuges after all...

cathy :-)

cathyf

Foo Bar, you really ought to mention that the aluminum tubes debacle was yet another milestone on the CIA's nearly perfect loosing streak. Now that the Iraqis have weighed in (or at least their documents) it turns out that the 50,000 tubes were for centrifuges after all...

cathy :-)

boris

Yeah, but watch foobird argue that doesn't count because before the war Bush had no way of knowing they weren't for soda pop cans.

cathyf

Pretty expensive soda cans, at $105 per tube... (Well, you know how competitive some people ca be -- maybe Saddam was going to run a Pepsi Challenge and he needed replacement cans to hide the brands. Sure, he could have covered the cans with heavy paper, but some people just don't do things on the cheap...)

cathy :-)

Foo Bar

the aluminum tubes debacle was yet another milestone on the CIA's nearly perfect loosing streak

Cathy,

First of all, given that the CIA stood by the tubes as evidence of reconstitution when it counted (in the NIE, before the AUMF vote), if it turned out now that they really were for centrifuges, that would be a vindication of the CIA (and a "loss" for DOE), would it not?

I'm sure you have your theories for why that FreeRepublic revelation has not been picked up by the evil MSM, but if it really were good evidence that the tubes were for centrifuges, wouldn't this at least represent a coup for Hoekstra that he would want to boast about? (Hoekstra pushed the idea of releasing all those docs to bloggers). Wouldn't he be touting this find? Maybe he is and I just can't find any evidence of it; if so, please pass it along.

Here's another idea: maybe you try to get TM to do a blog post on that FreeRepublic link. Trust me, he is not averse to promoting something from the comments to a main post when he finds it of interest. Who knows? Maybe he'll find that link interesting.

Foo Bar

The CIA portions of the 911 report alone enumerate links (such as agreement not to target Iraqi interests and offers of safe haven) that can't be described as "tenuous" or "inconsequential."

Well, however you want to characterize the CIA's assessment of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties, it certainly was not passively accepted by the administration. Quite the contrary, in fact. Rumsfeld and company set up an entire team to sift through and reinterpret the intelligence community's data regarding Iraq's links to terrorism. Almost as importantly, they made sure that this effort was publicly known, so that the message got out that they did not think the CIA's conclusions on this question were worthy of respect. This, despite what you said earlier:


In those cases, the CIA is supposed to report the sense of the community (i.e., the main findings on the NIE). Saying policy makers should disregard the CIA's product in favor of their own preferred source isn't very persuasive.

So policy makers should not disregard the CIA's product, then, right? I guess policy makers certainly shouldn't set up their own team that's free to reach their own conclusions, right? The CIA's summary of the sense of the community is the final word, right? Does that rule always apply, or does it only apply when the CIA's summary is sufficiently supportive of the case for war?


I don't see how you can read the NIE and come up with any conclusion other than it supported the case for war. (Yes, even the tubes part.)

Read uncritically, it certainly made a decent case for the presence of WMD programs, and I will grant that the decision about invasion was a tough call, and deciding to invade was not an outrageous decision given the NIE.

Let's stipulate that the NIE did support the case for war, on the balance (or , at the very least, this was something about which reasonable minds could disagree). That said, you can't read the section in the SSCI report about the discrepancies between the classified and declassified NIEs [p295 and p296] and not conclude that the case was far from a "slam dunk". The main conclusion in that section is that the elimination of caveats in the declassified version misrepresented to the public the judgments of the intelligence community. Unless that means the declassified version conveyed 100% confidence and the classified version only 99%, you'd have to concede that the case presented in the classified version was at least a little shaky.

Unless you want to argue that the administration's public statements were less alarmist and more caveated than the declassified NIE (I think it's clear the opposite is true), then it seems to me that the administration's public statements also misrepresented the judgments of the intelligence community. And I suppose you might say that Bush, Rice, etc. were not cleared to reveal the caveats, but as we've learned recently, the President can declassify anything anytime he wants, right? So if he wanted to make sure the country got an accurate sense of the reliability of the intelligence, he had the freedom to do it.

Syl

Foo Bar

All this boils down to is that you wanted absolute proof before going to war. The intelligence was opinions. Not true. Not false. The caveats were opinions as well.

If one expects certainty, one will never go to war which is, I suppose, your reason for pushing it.

As I see it the American people were okay with getting rid of Saddam. We didn't need all the i's dotted and t's crossed. On 9/13/01 a poll done by the WaPo had more than 70% of the public believing Saddam had something to do with 9/11....long before Bush started his push to depose him.

We have known for a very long time that Saddam was a danger to us. Couple that with his comfort with Islamic terror and after 9/11 it WAS A SLAM DUNK that we would take him down.

We didn't need the UN. And it was for the UN that Powell made his WMD show. The American people didn't need that show to convince them.

All that was long ago and no purpose is served by arguing with us. What do you hope to get out of this? Pushing Bush's numbers down to the low thirties?

Believe me if the Bush Lied crap hadn't started, this country might have had a REAL discussion about it. Now it's pointless.

I, personally, didn't believe the nuclear stuff. I still wanted Saddam out of there. I have no regrets.


Cecil Turner

Quite the contrary, in fact. Rumsfeld and company set up an entire team to sift through and reinterpret the intelligence community's data regarding Iraq's links to terrorism.

Ah, more of the anonymous officials cited as fact. The links cited came from CIA estimates. (The source for the most pertinent of which, claims of chem/bio training, recanted in early 2004.) Pretending the "team" set up a "stovepipe" is remarkably similar to another assertion that is handily disproven by a casual read of the NIE.

Read uncritically, it certainly made a decent case for the presence of WMD programs . . .
No kidding. And no matter how critically you read, that's obviously the point of the whole document, as the first line makes abundantly clear:

  • We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions.
The main conclusion in that section is that the elimination of caveats in the declassified version . . .

Sorry FB, but this is just silly. The caveats were eliminated from the declassified version because they were classified. Ditto for much of the supporting information. Expecting the CIA to run down its sources and grade the reliability of each is ridiculous, and nobody with a room-temperature IQ expected it. What we did expect was that the "key judgments" labeled "high confidence" would be accurate. They weren't. You can blame that on the Administration in the sense that they're ultimately responsible, but pretending they "twisted" the product that so self-evidently makes precisely the same case they did borders on the absurd.

Foo Bar

Syl:

All this boils down to is that you wanted absolute proof before going to war. The intelligence was opinions

If one expects certainty, one will never go to war which is, I suppose, your reason for pushing it.

No, I just wanted an accurate sense of the reliability of the intelligence to be conveyed to the public before we voted on whether to go in there.

I supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and although I wouldn't have done it I think there's a decent chance the Iraq invasion might work out well on the balance in the very long run. But I guess anyone who supported only invading only 1 and not 2 foreign countries within a single presidential term is a clueless hippy peacenik.

Cecil:

Ah, more of the anonymous officials cited as fact.

??? Please have another look at the NYT article about the Office of Special Plans stuff. Wolfowitz is quoted at length and on the record. Here is a choice quote that made clear to the public that he felt that CIA's overall conclusions were not to be trusted on this topic:

He described "a phenomenon in intelligence work, that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won't, and not see other facts that others will."

The Office of Special Plans is not some sort of lefty myth invented out of whole cloth and devious anonymous quotes. It's on the list of stuff to be investigated in Phase II of the SSCI investigation.

The links cited came from CIA estimates

Actually, that article says they were also sifting through stuff from DIA and other agencies, but even if it was only CIA docs they were looking at, that does not address my point. Your defense of the administration's use of the tubes is as follows, as I understand it: The CIA was responsible for supplying a concise, high-level, bottom-line summary estimate to the Bush administration on intelligence issues, and this is what the administration was supposed to go with (they couldn't be expected even to ask enough questions to figure out that it was 2-2 among all-source analyses with the experts against) . OK, fine. But then the administration should have been happy to accept from the CIA the same kind of concise, high-level, bottom-line summary estimate of the extent of Iraq-Al Qaeda links. They did not. Instead, they felt compelled to rummage through, as Wolfowitz said, "enormous amounts of incredibly valuable data that our many intelligence resources have vacuumed up" and try to determine on their own what those little bits of data meant.

What we did expect was that the "key judgments" labeled "high confidence" would be accurate

Good point! Note that the key judgment from the NIE for which the tubes were relevant (namely, that Iraq would be able to make a weapon by '07 to '09 even without getting fissile material elsewhere) was stated with medium confidence (look at the section on Confidence Levels for Selected Key Judgments). But this turned into the tubes being "only really suited" for centrifuges when Rice went on CNN.

The caveats were eliminated from the declassified version because they were classified

Yes, and the SSCI report makes clear that they should not have been, and that anyone who had access to both the classified and declassified NIEs should have realized (as Bob Graham certainly did at the time) that the intelligence was being misrepresented to the public. So if the White House pushed to have more declassified in the interest of giving the public a full picture but were rebuffed by the CIA, then the White House is excused. To put it mildly, I don't see much evidence that this is how it happened, though.

Cecil Turner

Wolfowitz is quoted at length and on the record.

You mean like this one: "He emphasized, 'They are not making independent intelligence assessments.'"?

The Office of Special Plans is not some sort of lefty myth invented out of whole cloth and devious anonymous quotes.

No. But what you claim they were doing is.

Note that the key judgment from the NIE for which the tubes were relevant . . .

Ah, the tubes. The [high confidence] conclusions about the nuclear weapons programs aren't important, only the [medium confidence] conclusions about the tubes. Silly me.

Yes, and the SSCI report makes clear that they should not have been [classified],

Not sure it does. It says it was misleading to leave them out. Then it has a redacted classified bit right underneath (probably pointing out that's standard practice when declassifying estimates).

and that anyone who had access to both the classified and declassified NIEs should have realized (as Bob Graham certainly did at the time) that the intelligence was being misrepresented to the public.

No kidding. Including great bunches of it that weren't declassified. Again, had the basic conclusions been correct, this would all be irrelevant. The problem is, they weren't. And there was no "twisting" necessary to make them false.

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